UFC’s next Fight Night event Saturday will be headlined by a middleweight bout pitting Uriah Hall against Sean Strickland.
Both fighters are riding four-fight winning streaks, and each has a title fight against middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in mind as the ultimate goal. A victory on Saturday would allow each to take one step closer, with the eighth-ranked Hall looking to move toward the top five and the 11th-ranked Strickland seeking to break into the top 10.
“Izzy is the person I want to get to,” says Hall (17–9). “He is a true champion, and my style matches up perfectly with his. I’m not looking past Sean, but Izzy is my motivator. He’s my target.”
Hall defeated Chris Weidman in his most recent fight, which was a gruesome encounter that ended after Weidman broke his leg throwing a kick at the beginning of the opening round.
“It’s an old way of blocking,” Hall says. “He threw everything into that kick, and I just checked it perfectly.”
The 36-year-old Hall still possesses incredible power. Though his UFC career looked like it was in jeopardy in July 2018 after he dropped four of five fights, he has won four in a row since to reestablish himself in the division.
“If I can be bluntly honest, I was at a place where I was not motivated,” Hall says. “If I don’t get challenged, I get bored. When I look back at those losses, my mind wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to make excuses. Those guys were the better men those nights.
“After I lost those fights, all these opinions were formed—‘he’s a head case,’ ‘he’s this,’ ‘he’s that.’ But when people don’t know you personally, you shouldn’t take it personally. For those who know me personally, they know what I’m going through. Like when I fought Bevon Lewis, afterwards I was crying. People thought I was crying because I won. No, my sister almost committed suicide, and I was battling that. You never know what people are going through.”
Strickland (23–3) has also endured his share of adversity. He suffered a gruesome knee injury in December 2018 after getting hit by a vehicle while riding his motorcycle, yet returned to the cage two years later to win his next three fights.
“I don’t know if it’s that remarkable,” Strickland says. “What else was I going to f------ do in life? At the end of the day, I had a choice. I could be injured and go f------ be a plumber. Nothing against plumbers, that job is hard as s---. I’ve done it, it sucks. Or I could f------ man up and attempt to fight.”
Hall and Strickland have known each other for years, and both know what to expect Saturday.
“I used to train with Sean, and I feel I know exactly what he’s going to do,” Hall says. “If he chooses to stand with me, he’s going to have to walk forward. I see him standing a certain distance and countering, still pressuring me to break me. And I welcome that. I’ve been training with some of the best people, and I’m ready.”
Fully aware of Hall’s power, Strickland knows that this is a matchup that is not likely to go the distance.
“I’m fighting one of the best strikers in the world,” Strickland says. “I’ve accepted he can knock me out. Uriah’s a f------ killer.
“Uriah has that power. It doesn’t matter if you’re the better fighter. If you f--- up, you’re done. He’s one of the best strikers in the division. Beating Uriah puts me in a whole other class.”
Those familiar with Hall’s body of work should expect a banger. Strickland is also dangerously powerful, perhaps even more so than Hall. This bout is a must-win for both fighters, and whatever it may lack in length, it should more than make up for in action.
“I’ve heard Sean say he doesn’t care about ranking and doesn’t care about the belt,” Hall says. “I’m like, get the f---- out of here. I guess he doesn’t want it as bad as I do.”
Strickland has accepted that he could very well become the next opponent in Hall’s highlight reel, yet he is eager to show the fight world that he is the real deal in the cage.
“Uriah Hall could highlight-knockout me, or this could end with him laying on the canvas and me hitting him in the face 30 times,” Strickland says. “Who f------ knows, but we’re going to find out.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.